For my AP English class we are doing senior projects. For my senior project I decided to research dog collars. I constructed this research paper on all the information I gathered. I needed to post my paper somewhere for it to be viewed by others who may be interested in it. I also made a video as my product. It's on YouTube at this address SPJY Training a Dog with a Prong Collar - YouTube
AP Language and Composition
May 30, 2014
Humane Dog Training
Becoming a dog owner is life changing. Your life soon becomes centered on taking care of that dog and making sure he has everything he needs to be happy. He needs food and water daily, constant bathroom breaks, plenty of exercise, toys, and affection. You try to do what is best for your furry friend but sometimes doing what you believe is best backfires. Your dog gets overly excited at seeing other dogs so you avoid places where other dogs may be around. You dread walks because your dog drags you down the street, making a should-be happy trip a nightmare. Even inside your home your dog possesses bad manners: jumping on guests, barking at all hours of the night, getting into the trash bin, chasing the cat. You’re at your wits end and know that you need a better way to control your canine.
You start looking at different gadgets at the pet store but have no idea what would help you correct your dog or what any of them are used for. How does a head collar work? Would a choke chain actually help anything or just make things worse? Are prong collars humane or would it just make my dogs life miserable? I had all these questions and more, so I did some research. I looked in books, online articles, and training videos. I even talked to dog trainer David Harris of Animal Resorts and Training Center who trains dogs for people all over the world. Through my research I found out many things about dog training collars and harnesses, but the most important thing I discovered was that none of them are inhumane or “cruel” to use on dogs. The only cruel thing about dog collars and harnesses is when they are misused by people. If you believe that a training collar or harness is necessary to improve your relationship with your dog then you need to know which training aid will be most helpful and how to use it properly.
Traditional Dog Collar
It is necessary for all dogs to have a simple traditional collar. Most domestic dogs wear a classic collar, either by itself or coupled with another training collar or harness. There are two types: buckle and quick release.
Quick release collars, as their name implies, can easily be removed and put back on the dog. This allows the dog to be freed or gained control of quickly in an emergency, unlike a buckle collar which will need extra adjustments. In some situations the buckle collar has proved to be dangerous. If a dog is wearing a buckle collar and becomes caught on something it is nearly impossible to free the dog without cutting the collar because to release the collar it must first be tightened. If a dog in this same situation was wearing a quick release collar, the dog could easily be freed by a quick pinch to the connector of the collar.
Buckle collars tend to be the better choice for large dogs as they are less likely to break when they are pulled on by a strong canine. The quick release collar can become loose or the strap can become undone when a dog pulls hard on the leash, which could create a very dangerous situation. For this reason I believe that the buckle collar is the safer and more secure choice for a dog that might pull or lunge with the leash on.
The traditional collar is one of the most widely misused canine gadgets. It is very common nowadays to see a dog dragging their owners down the street. While it can be funny to see a dog “walking their owner” the struggle is not fun for the dog or its owner and is a result of poor training and a poor dog-handler relationship. With proper training most dogs can learn to stay safely beside their handler. For some dogs, clicker and food training is enough to keep them happily at their leader’s side, but others require help from some form of training aid, such as the martingale or the prong collar.
When choosing a collar for a dog make sure the hardware and thickness fit the size of the dog. Don’t pick a collar too heavy for a small dog and don’t pick a collar that is too thin for a big dog. Big dogs require thicker collars that will not injure their necks. The collar should be tight enough so that it can’t slip off, but loose enough as to not restrict breathing. The rule of thumb is that you will be able to fit two fingers underneath the collar. It is also possible to measure a dog’s neck to find out what size collar it needs. Just add two or three inches to a dogs neck size to get its collar size.
When you buy a collar you should also consider getting your dog a nametag. The nametag should have a minimum of your phone number on it so that you could be contacted if your dog is lost. In some places it is required by law for a dog to wear a nametag.
The martingale or limited-slip collar is a collar for dogs with narrow skulls, such as a greyhound or an afghan hound and for dogs that have a habit of slipping out of their collars. This collar is designed to fit looser than the traditional collar but will tighten when pulled on so that a dog cannot slip out of the collar if it becomes scared or excited. It also serves as a safer more effective alternative to a choke chain for corrections.
A martingale collar is a flat collar made with two loops. The larger loop, which is adjustable in size, is placed around the dog’s neck and adjusted to fit loosely. The leash is then clipped to the central loop. When the leash is pulled on the smaller loop is pulled tight, which tightens the larger loop around the dogs neck. When the leash is pulled on even pressure is asserted around the dog’s neck instead of only the front. This encourages them not to pull too hard on the leash because they dislike having the collar tightened.
I suggest the martingale be used as an alternative to using a choke chain on a dog. The martingale can give the handler the same ability to do corrections as the choke, but the martingale is limited to how tight it can become. This prevents the dog from being choked or choking itself. The corrections given are gentler and more understood by the dog. Neither of these collars should be left on the dog when they are not being handled. Both have a greater risk than a traditional collar of getting caught on something or being slipped off. It’s necessary to have a collar or harness on your dog at almost all times so that you can grab hold of them in case of an emergency.
Head Halter/Head Collar/Gentle Leader
The head halter is more of a halter than a collar because instead of fitting on a dog’s neck it fits on their head. One strap goes around the base of the dog’s head, directly behind its ears. The other strap goes on the dog’s muzzle, right under the eyes. The two straps meet under the dog’s chin, which is where the leash is attached.
The halter is praised by many positive dog trainers who claim that “the halter is the most humane way to train a dog.” There are many things wrong with that statement:
1. The head halter is not a training tool, but instead it is a management tool. Some people like to call the head halter the gentle leader because of the control it gives them over their dog. I prefer the name that many trainers give it, a Band-Aid. Because that’s exactly what it is: a cover-up for the real problem between a dog and its handler. The dog can easily be “managed” by the head halter, which twists the dog’s head to the side while putting pressure on the dog’s very sensitive muzzle. This action can be accomplished with very little effort by the handler.
2. The head halter can cause significant injury to a dog and continuous discomfort every time they wear it. A dog must be conditioned and bribed into wearing a head halter, while other types of collars, even the prong, are accepted without refusal. The first time a dog wears a head halter (and the second, and third, and probably three hundredth time) they will paw and claw at the halter and may even buck around on the leash. The properly fitted head halter is very tight on the dog’s neck and muzzle, restricting the dogs ability to breath, yawn, pant, eat, drink, or play fetch(oddly enough people still claim that it is NOT like a muzzle). The halter is fitted right below the eyes, a very sensitive area and is often rubbed sore by the halter.
Many dogs pull on the head halter. They constantly hold their head in a twisted position when walking which will cause injuries to the dog’s neck after a while. Aside from the dangerous habits the halter can cause, the motion of the halter itself can cause neck, spinal, and/or, nerve damage to the dog. The jerking sideways motion of the dog’s head and neck when it lunges, or even when they handler simple pulls the leash to stop or turn the dog, can cause these painful injuries in the dog’s neck and back.
3. The head halter is not a way to positively train a dog. There is nothing positive about the constant discomfort caused by the head halter. A dog which appears to be calmed by the halter is often simply in an uncomfortable and unhappy state. There is no good way to control a dog with a head halter on since pulling on the halter not only causes discomfort for the dog but may lead to injury.
I see no case where the head halter would actually be necessary for a dog. There may be a few dogs that are already good on the leash that seem to really not mind the head halter, who could wear it on a walk, but most dogs will not benefit from its use. Watch the video “Why the 'Gentle' Leader Isn't!” on YouTube to see an example of a dog who is noticeably uncomfortable in the halter and has not learned to heel, even after using the head halter for five years.
The prong collar is probably the most misunderstood training device for dogs. It may look like some crazy torturing device but is actually safer to use on a dog than a head halter or choke chain. In fact it is not harmful to the dog at all (except maybe the dog’s mental state if used improperly).
The prong collar, also known as the pinch collar, is a metal collar made up of several prong links which can be added or removed to fit the dog’s neck. The prongs are not sharp; instead they are rounded at the points and apply an even amount of pressure on the dog’s neck when pulled on. The collar has a limited slip chain that tightens the prongs around the dog’s neck when pulled or provide a “pinch” when giving a short and sharp correction. The leash can also be attached to both loops of the chain so that the collar will not tighten around the dog’s neck.
This collar is often used by the average dog owner and by professionals training working dogs. The collar is used often by trainers of working dogs, such as police, army, and personal protection dogs. It is also used in the common home to control dogs that tend to lunge or pull on their leash. A dog put in the prong collar will learn to stay with its handler on walks and not to pull on the leash after only one use. The dog learns that pulling or lunging of the leash will cause them discomfort and staying by you will relieve that discomfort. After just one use the dog will become happier and safer on walks because they will stay by your side instead of strangling themselves trying to pull on the leash. This makes the handler much happier too because they no longer have to have a constant battle of tug-a-war or worry about the dog lunging forward and getting loose.
Some people refuse to use the prong collar because they don’t want to cause their dog any discomfort. Is the dog comfortable when its dragging its owner down the street, stuck in a kennel all day so that it doesn’t get into things it’s not supposed to, or put down because it was deemed unmanageable and untrainable by a “positive reinforcement” trainer? Of course not! A split second of discomfort from a correction for bad behavior is always the better option. This way a dog can know its limits and know the consequences of testing those limits. One quick flick of the leash allows you to communicate to your canine and make life easier for both of you.
The choke collar, also known as the slip collar or check chain, is simply a metal chain with a hoop on either end. The chain is thread through one of the loops so that when the leash is attached to the outside loop the collar will tighten when pulled on.
Unlike a martingale or prong collar, the choke chain has no limit to how tight it can become around a dogs neck. The intended use of the choke collar is to literally choke the dog for bad behavior. This use of the collar, intentional or not, may cause damage to the dogs trachea or brain. Extended periods of pulling on the leash and cutting off the animal’s air supply cuts of oxygen to the brain. Using this device, even for just small corrections, has the potential to cause irreversible damage when used regularly.
If a choke collar is used on a dog, never allow it to be left on the dog while the dog is not being trained. The loop of the collar is known for getting caught on things. As soon as it gets caught the dog will feel trapped and start to panic. The dog’s instinct is to pull back which will cause it to choke itself and lead to more panic. If the dog is not freed it could pass out or strangle itself. Never leave a choke collar on an unattended dog.
Corrections done with the choke collar, or any collar, should be fast tug and release. If possible, have a trainer show you the proper way to do a correction and how to do them at the right time. Timing is everything when it comes to dog training. If you don’t tell them what they did was right or wrong directly after they do it then they won’t understand or learn.